Bright Idea: Program Your VCR and Feed Your Cat at the Same Time
What is automatic? Automatic is a device working by itself with little or no direct human control. Things that are automatic are an alarm clock, a timer, a coffeemaker that turns on at 6:30 a.m. when you wake up.
What is mechanical engineering? Modeling the bending and twisting displayed by solar panels on a space telescope. Designing carbon fiber prosthetic blades for high-speed running. Designing a safety harness for an upside-down amusement park ride. Designing surgical robots that improve precision and reduce incision size, blood loss, pain and healing time. These are just some things a mechanical engineer could do.
In this mechanical engineering project, I followed the engineering process to design and create my automatic pet feeder. A lot of work went into this: I had to define the problem, do background research, specify requirements, brainstorm solutions, do development work, build a prototype, test and redesign.
My first step in the engineering process is to define the problem. In this case, I needed to find a reliable ways of feeding my pet for two days. The second step is to do background research. I looked up many ways to build a pet feeder. The third step is to look at the specific requirements. The fourth step is to brainstorm solutions. I thought of various ways to make it work better. The fifth step was to choose the best solution and use it. The sixth step is to do development work: to find out how fast I wanted it to be running, how big I wanted it to be and if I wanted it elevated or on the floor. The seventh step is to build a prototype and see if it runs the way I want it to. The last step is to test and redesign it.
It took several trials to build and test my designs, but I didn't give up. At the end of my project, the result was a cool way to feed your pet and the ability to go on a short vacation knowing that my pet is being taken care of.
Too my surprise it worked and it worked really well (when I'm home)! I am working on it so that when I set the timer on the VCR, it will run so that my pet will be able to eat.